This month I have selected Casablanca, not only because it is one of the greatest films in history and with the Oscar’s just a month away an Academy Award winning film deserves to be featured, but also because the iconic film is a romantic melodrama that is idyllic for the month of Valentine. Casablanca is a masterful tale of two men vying for the same woman’s love. At the end everyone sacrifices, and the theme of sacrificing love for a higher purpose is rampant through the film as well as immensely appealing.
It’s a captivating wartime adventure of romance and intrigue from director Michael Curtiz that defies standard categorization by covering war, romance, spy, and comedy all in one. This film is most remembered for its star-studded lead characters, memorable as well as cynical lines, and omnipresent theme song.
Casablanca is a story of political and romantic espionage set against the backdrop of the wartime conflict between democracy and totalitarianism. The French Moroccan seaport has become headline news since the picture was made and the colorful background of the cosmopolitan city has become an important stop on the timetable of the European refugee. Hence a romantic dinner with Moroccan elements and a western vibe makes for a perfect accompaniment with this film while celebrating the month of romance or on Valentine’s Day itself.
Shrimp and Mushrooms with Spinach Couscous makes an elegant and flavorful meal for a Valentine’s evening dinner with a movie like Casablanca. Compliment the meal with champagne, which most likely was poured at Rick’s Café where most of the film takes place, as Rick’s Café American is a nightclub with ballers in shawl-collar tuxedo jackets, therefore champagne is a standby. The elegant nightclub, casino and, as Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, famously notes, “gin-joint” does brisk business in classic Old-World liquors like brandy, cognac, and triple sec. So, it is no doubt a cocktail movie and you could serve any in the duration of your evening, but there are only two true cocktails explicitly ordered in the film. When Rick’s spurned flame, a broad named Yvonne, shows up with her new Nazi squeeze, he orders a French 75, a champagne-based cocktail made with gin. The other cocktail order belongs to Victor Laszlo, the Czech freedom fighter played by Paul Henreid, who asks for a champagne cocktail at the bar. Champagne being at the center of it all, I recommend Champagne as a part of your Oscar movie dinner, particularly if you are making it a romantic one for Valentine’s Day.
What I like about adding champagne to this meal is that it glamorizes the simplicity of this meal. Although elegant, Shrimp and Mushroom with Spinach Couscous is austere in its preparation. I like how the darling foil packets that the meal is cooked in defines the dinner for two and packs in incredible flavor. The true Moroccan origin couscous, takes us to vibrant Casablanca raveled with romance and flavor.
1 c. couscous
1 (5-oz.) package baby spinach
1 lb. mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20 large peeled and deveined shrimp
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F or an outdoor grill to medium-high.
- Tear off four 12" squares of foil and arrange on two baking sheets.
- In a small bowl, combine the couscous with 1/2 cup water.
- Divide the kale among the pieces of foil. Top with the couscous, then the mushrooms, garlic and shrimp.
- Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Cover with another piece of foil and fold each edge up and over three times. Roast or grill (covered) for 15 minutes.
- Transfer each packet to a plate. Using scissors or a knife, cut an “X” in the center and fold back the triangles.
- Serve immediately.